Verification Mission Overseeing Next Phase of Colombia Peace Agreement to Begin on Schedule, Special Representative Tells Security Council

SC/12981
11 September 2017
8041st meeting (AM)

Verification Mission Overseeing Next Phase of Colombia Peace Agreement to Begin on Schedule, Special Representative Tells Security Council

The new mission that would oversee the next phase of the 2016 peace agreement between the Government of Colombia and the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) is on track to begin its activities as scheduled on 26 September, the Head of the United Nations Mission in that country told the Security Council today.

Jean Arnault, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, briefing the Council on measures taken to establish the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, as per Council resolution 2366 (2017), said the new mission would begin once the mandate of the current United Nations Mission in Colombia expired.

“Although the time frame was tight, the sum total of these efforts carried out under your [Council] authority have put us on track to start the Verification Mission on time,” he said, adding that it would be in a position to fulfil its tasks on day one of its mandate.

He cited FARC-EP’s formal transformation into a political party in Bogota on 29 August — a year to the day after the ceasefire that led to the Final Peace Agreement of 24 November 2016 that ended 53 years of armed conflict — as a measure of the momentous developments that had taken place in Colombia, as well as the intense political will required on both sides to drive the peace process forward.

On the temporary ceasefire agreed by the Government of Colombia and the National Liberation Army (ELN) that would start on 1 October, he said both sides had confirmed to him their interest in the United Nations involvement in that process.  He also drew attention to Pope Francis’ recent visit to Colombia, saying the pontiff had delivered a strong message in favour of reconciliation, forgiveness and confidence in the future.

The representative of Colombia conveyed her President’s appreciation to the Secretary-General and the Council for the work carried out by the United Nations Mission.  By staking its hope on peace in Colombia, the Council through its show of confidence had given the peace process a boost, enabling decisive steps to be taken towards FARC-EP’s reintegration into civilian life.  The Government was aware of the challenge it faced, she said, but remained firm in its will to implement all provisions of the peace agreement to ensure a lasting peace.

Bolivia’s representative said the past few months had seen extraordinary progress in Colombia, with the peace process and its tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism setting an example for the world.  He emphasized the role that the new mission would play in verifying the reintegration of FARC-EP members.

The representative of Uruguay said the proposed mandate, size and structure of the Verification Mission pointed to the seriousness of its tasks.  It was critical to keep implementing all points of the final peace agreement, avoid delays and ensure that the cooperation of the parties was not weakened, he said, adding that ELN should also become a leading player in the peace process.

Japan’s representative said a “whole-of-UN” approach would remain critical, with long-term success depending on the determination and commitment demonstrated by the parties.  FARC-EP members who had laid down their arms must be able to fully participate in Colombia’s economic and social life as soon as possible, he said, adding that sufficient resources and security guarantees were essential in that regard.

Also speaking this morning were representatives of Sweden, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:46 p.m.

Briefing

JEAN ARNAULT, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in Colombia, presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia (document S/2017/745), briefed the Council on implementation of resolution 2366 (2017) ahead of the start of the Mission’s activities on 26 September.  He said the formal transformation of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) into a political party was a measure of the momentous developments that had taken place in the past 12 months and the intense political will required on both sides to drive the peace process forward.  He summarized several measures taken since 10 July to prepare for the transition to the Verification Mission.  That included the establishment of transitional teams, identification of staffing needs, selection of observers, a deployment plan and reconnaissance visits, and the establishment of joint working groups between the Mission and the United Nations country team.  “Although the time frame was tight, the sum total of these efforts carried out under your [Council] authority have put us on track to start the Verification Mission on time,” he said, adding that it would be in a position to fulfil its tasks on day one of its mandate.

On the temporary ceasefire agreed by the Government of Colombia and the National Liberation Army (ELN) that would start on 1 October, he said that development should be accompanied by measures to improve the humanitarian situation in conflict areas.  Noting that the United Nations would assist with the verification of commitments made, he said he had met with both sides who had confirmed their interest in the Organization’s involvement.  Further discussions this week would enable the Secretary-General to make recommendations to the Council in the near future.  He recalled Pope Francis’ recent visit to Colombia, saying the pontiff had delivered a strong message in favour of reconciliation, forgiveness and confidence in the future.  Over the past months, the peace process between the Government and FARC-EP had tipped the scales in favour of hope, he said, adding that the United Nations system, with Council support, could shore up further the confidence of Colombian society in a stable peace.

Statements

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) called for a committed and sustained effort by the State to support Colombia’s peace agreement at all levels, which must include comprehensive rural reform that would allow all citizens to share in the tangible dividends of peace.  The political, economic and social reincorporation of former combatants was an integral part of that process, he said, adding that violence against human rights defenders and community leaders demonstrated the need for the second United Nations mission to also verify the implementation of personal and collective security guarantees, as requested by the parties.  Sweden supported that mission’s proposed strong presence both locally and regionally, which must be robust enough to allow proper verification of security and reintegration.  There must also be a strong emphasis on coordination and cooperation with the United Nations country team.  As Chair of the Council’s Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict, he underscored the need to end the recruitment of minors, and highlighted the group’s conclusion that the parties must ensure that child protection was given due consideration as early as possible in the peace process.

KORO BESSHO (Japan), expressing his delegation’s readiness to discuss a draft resolution in line with the Secretary-General’s recommendations, underscored the importance of continued close cooperation between the United Nations Mission in Colombia and the country team, as well as the “seamless transition of missions”.  The “whole-of-UN” approach would remain critical and long-term success depended on the determination and commitment demonstrated by the parties.  Noting that Colombia’s social and economic reintegration process remained a delicate and challenging part of the peace process, he said FARC members who had laid down their arms must be able to fully participate in the country’s economic and social life as soon as possible.  Sufficient resources and security guarantees were essential, he said in that regard, adding that the FARC must observe the peace agreement and make efforts to fully integrate into society.

LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay), emphasizing that Colombia’s ceasefire and other recent positive steps were “opening new hope” that its peace would prove to be long-standing and comprehensive, said the Secretary-General’s report demonstrated the United Nations receptivity to the parties’ requests to take up the verification mandate entrusted to it.  The proposed mandate, size and structure of the second United Nations mission pointed to the seriousness of its tasks, he said, noting that it was critical to continue to implement all points of the final peace agreement, avoid delays and ensure that the cooperation of the parties was not weakened.  Among other things, the new Mission would take up tasks related to issues of gender, human rights and ethic and indigenous issues, and its deployment would focus on rural and other critical areas.  The ELN should also become a leading player in the peace process, he said.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) welcomed the recent milestones in Colombia’s peace process, including the finalization of the extraction of weapons from former FARC members and the decision to extend the Mission’s mandate for two weeks.  Expressing hope that the ceasefire agreement would lead to a more long-term end to hostilities, and that the ELN group would stop its violent activities, he said the Government should also do its part to improve the living conditions of its people.  Echoing other speakers’ calls to ensure the social and economic reintegration of the former rebel fighters, and for all parties to continue to adhere to their commitments under the peace agreement, he pointed out that the Verification Mission had considered shortcomings in the first United Nations Mission’s mandate and that the second mission would improve upon those areas.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said the past few months had seen extraordinary progress in Colombia, with both the Government and FARC-EP demonstrating political leadership.  The peace process and its tripartite mechanism set an example for the world, he said, commending also the work of United Nations observers.  Much remained to be done to transform the living conditions of the most vulnerable sectors of Colombian society and to reduce the gap between rural and urban.  He emphasized the role that the new Mission would play in verifying the reintegration of FARC-EP members, which was the most complicated part of the peace process.  Noting that FARC-EP had now entered civilian political life, he quoted the President of Bolivia as saying that revolutions today were conducted through elections, not weapons, and underscored Pope Francis’ message of reconciliation to Colombian youth.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said today was a rare case of a Council resolution being postponed due to positive developments.  He welcomed progress in the peace process, which had opened the door to FARC-EP becoming a political force.  He said his country hoped that parties to the peace agreement would fulfil their remaining tasks, including the destruction of weapons caches and the reintegration of combatants.  He also emphasized the need to pay attention to security aspects of the peace agreement.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) conveyed her President’s appreciation to the Secretary-General and the Council for the work carried out by the first United Nations mission in the country.  By staking its hope on peace in Colombia, the Council through its show of confidence had given the peace process a boost, enabling decisive steps to be taken towards the reintegration of FARC-EP into civilian life while providing security guarantees.  It was understood that the Verification Mission would be an exclusively United Nations mission, ensuring the two sides fulfilled their commitments, she said.

She elaborated on recent measures taken by her Government regarding the peace process and the Verification Mission.  Those included the creation of a post-conflict Cabinet, led by the President who had appointed the Vice-President as the focal point for the Verification Mission.  Legislative provisions had been adopted that included political reforms which led to FARC-EP becoming a political entity.  Three surveys had meanwhile been conducted to assist in the reintegration of FARC-EP members, including those minors who would be recognized as victims and whose rights would be restored.

The Government was aware of the immense challenge it faced, but remained firm in its will to quickly implement all provisions of the peace agreement to ensure a stable and lasting peace, she said.  Turning to the temporary ceasefire with ELN, she said the President had sent correspondence to the Secretary-General regarding the United Nations’ participation in that process.  Concluding, she said peace was a tireless quest that required everybody’s commitment in striving for a culture of mutual understanding.

For information media. Not an official record.